Tell me about Rifts: the good, the bad, and the ugly

vivsavage

Independent Procrastinor
Validated User
I have never played or read Rifts, but I know it is/was a hugely popular RPG. I've heard many decry the system while lauding the fluff. Tell me all you want to about the game.
 

Keal

Drifting in the abstract
Validated User
I haven't actually played Rifts in the longest time (well over fifteen years), but I have to say, it's still one of those games that I pick up now and again and flip through and imagine actually playing. There will be those who'll say that the rules contradict themselves in multiple areas (and they do at times), and that some PC options are more powerful than others (and they are) - but if you're willing to overlook all of that and have mature, responsible players who care more about your crafting of a story, it won't matter that one person is a Cyber-knight, another a Glitterboy, another a Mind Melter, and the third a True Atlantean. They'll all have their own very, very specific powers and will each do something that the others can't necessarily do.

Each of the world sourcebooks also, in my opinion, oozes 'cool'. You'll find yourself reading the China books and will want to make use of them immediately. Or you'll read about the Vampire Kingdoms, and you'll picture the PCs forming up as a mercenary group going in to try and wipe out as many of them as humanly possible.

Basically, bad rules or not, if you can just *play* the game for what it is - a game - I think that everyone can have a lot of fun with it. It's an "everything and the kitchen sink" type of game, and if you want to use every single sourcebook as well as the core rulebook in your game - and you're willing to let the game be wacky and over the top, I think you'll have a lot of fun, too.
 

GaoGaiGar

Is anyone REALLY a
Validated User
I have never played or read Rifts, but I know it is/was a hugely popular RPG. I've heard many decry the system while lauding the fluff. Tell me all you want to about the game.
The Palladium system started out as an AD&D-inspired system for fantasy back in the first edition days, notably having an extensive skill system and a hit point system that got into the "hit points are dodging and withstanding blows through talent" and "hit points are meat points" by having both, SDC for easy to increase and to heal points and HP for serious damage. Palladium expanded into a variety of other genres, modern action and sci-fi, doing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game that expanded martial arts and a Robotech line that introduced "mega-damage capacity (MDC)" armor and weapons that were 100 times or more stronger than normal HP and SDC, so much that conventional weapons couldn't damage it. OK for 50 foot robots, not so good when applied to personal-level combat.

RIFTS was made to let all of their different games be used together, taking place 200 years after a nuclear apocalypse ignited the ley lines all over the planet and opened rifts from other worlds, letting demons, monsters and aliens ravage the planet.

Initial game concepts were developed around a suit of 10 foot tall powered armor called the "Glitter Boy," which had a very powerful shoulder-mounted railgun (Indeed, that was an early name of the game). The core book is set in the US midwest, where a human-centric and human and tech-supremacist empire called the Coalition States rules with fear and an iron fist (their armor and mecha feature an overwhelming skull motif).

Characters can range from Glitter Boys to various types of mages, psychics, drug or cybernetically-enhanced humans, Cyber-Knights who can create their own lightsabers with mental powers, young dragons, mecha pilots and normal humans in various careers. But any class from any game could be used, superheroes, mutant animals, fantasy, science-fiction, you name it. The setting is very gonzo, kitchen sink and anything goes.

The system still creaks under the weight of its roots as an AD&D heartbreaker from the early 80s. Big chunks of it are copied and pasted from earlier games. There's a percentile skill system with huge skill lists, some with deep prerequisites but little in the way of a system for using said skills. There's been a steady amount of skill creep from having so many different genres added to it and they are poorly integrated. There are multiple skills for using radios, but no nuclear physics or engineering skills, despite a huge amount of the vehicles and tech operating on compact nuclear reactors.

Athletic skills give your character bonuses to various physical stats, which was a huge advantage in earlier games, but much less so in RIFTS. Mega-Damage weaponry is quite commonplace. A simple MDC handgun can vaporize any "normal" SDC character with any shot. A character might have 60 SDC and hit points combined. A handgun with explosive bullets might do 1D4 MDC... or 1D4 x 100 SDC, rounded up to the nearest hundred. MDC body armor is available, usually around 50 points, and ablative. A hit that gets through your armor, even one point, will kill you. Thus, a character is mostly defined by their gear's abilities, barring MDC-level powers or anatomy.

There's not the least attempt of balance between the character classes whatsoever... you can have a wilderness scout or vagabond with no well-developed skills with a dragon, a cyborg and a mage.

The percentage skill system doesn't interface with the combat system at all, which is based on D20 rolls vs a fixed number with bonuses (provided by physical skills and skill packages), and then the opponent may get a chance to dodge. The combat system is patched together from previous games... characters start with multiple actions per turn, increasing by level. Some maneuvers, like a power punch or full automatic fire take multiple actions, others just use one.

I could go on and on about its flaws, far more than this. The setting is so over the top and full of ideas though... that's why people still talk about it. It unabashedly throws in every element you can think of and lets you bring in those you haven't before in a wild melange. Palladium has resisted any sort of conversion to other systems for decades, but recently has licensed a Savage World version of RIFTS, which many people are looking forward to.
 

Toothsome

Active member
Banned
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The Good: The setting is a lot of fun. It's a post apocalyptic future where hi tech mixes with magic and produces a gonzo setting where a mutant dog and a baby dragon can hang out. I also happen to like the artwork quite a bit.

The Bad: It's not at all balanced. Some of the character classes are next to useless while others are extremely powerful. Mega damage was a great idea to differentiate tanks from regular automobiles or squishy humans but almost everything does mega damage.

The Ugly: The Palladium rules. I could tolerate them back in the late 80s through the early 90s but not any longer. I am very much looking forward to the Savage Worlds version of Rifts.
 

giant.robot

Registered User
Validated User
The Palladium rules as presented in the Rifts rule book are definitely the "ugly". There's a lot of terminology used but not well defined elsewhere in the book. For instance a character's number of attacks with a laser gun is equal to their number of hand-to-hand attacks per round. Who would think to look for ranged weapon attacks under hand-to-hand rules? No one.

However the rules aren't terrible if you understand them. For that I recommend picking up the Palladium Fantasy RPG. The rules are presented in a much easier to follow manner and things are explained better. Then just use the Rifts specific rules like the missile hit tables and you've got yourself a game.

Besides the rules the world is a lot of gonzo fun. There's interesting crap everywhere and you can find just about any crazy thing from aliens to elves to sentient computers. You can find sourcebooks for pretty good prices on eBay and Palladium has finally started putting their books out digitally on DriveThru. They're OCRed scans but it's better than nothing. You can get the core rule book, first sourcebook, and PFRPG pretty cheap as PDFs and see if you like the game.
 

Blackwingedheaven

Crystal Human
Validated User
You can find sourcebooks for pretty good prices on eBay and Palladium has finally started putting their books out digitally on DriveThru. They're OCRed scans but it's better than nothing.
Well, to be fair, they kind of have to be. Palladium didn't stop laying out books on wax paper until 2010 or so.

And I'll add to the general sentiment here: the Rifts setting is amazing gonzo fun full of tons of good (and bad) ideas, but the rules are just ugly to wade through.
 

neutrondecay

An Experience
RPGnet Member
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At the time, I was playing TMNT&OS rather than Rifts; I always got the Rifts fluff confused with the Torg fluff. What distinguishes them?

nd
 

Toothsome

Active member
Banned
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At the time, I was playing TMNT&OS rather than Rifts; I always got the Rifts fluff confused with the Torg fluff. What distinguishes them?
In Torg the invasions were led by High Lords with a specific plan. In Rifts the dimensional, er, rifts, are caused by a nuclear exchange that kills a bunch of people. Also, in Torg the PCs are supposed to stop the invasion. In Rifts the characters aren't really focused on stopping new creatures from coming to Earth rather than just dealing with what's there now.

Edit: And maybe the biggest difference is how Torg dealt with different realities. One part of earth might allow high tech while another might allow magic. In Rifts everything is one big melting pot.
 
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Blackwingedheaven

Crystal Human
Validated User
At the time, I was playing TMNT&OS rather than Rifts; I always got the Rifts fluff confused with the Torg fluff. What distinguishes them?

nd
Rifts is a post-apocalyptic game where the "invasions" are mostly accidental. Reality tore apart and things came flooding in during a nuclear war that turned into a magical apocalypse. The game is set three centuries later just as humanity is beginning to claw its way out of the dark ages. It's very Thundarr the Barbarian in a lot of ways--sorcery and super-science blending together in freakish and bizarre ways to create a very weird world.

TORG is a near-future game where the apocalypse is currently happening. The invasion is intentional, and each invading universe brings its own reality with it, making the physics and magical laws different in each area you can adventure in. Instead of being a big melting pot of weird different ideas, it's more like a salad, where all the weird, different things are present and jostling up against one another but not actually blended together.
 

TheGrog

Registered User
Validated User
Torg is an organized invasion of Earth for specific goals, and Earth is getting worked over.

Rifts is what happens if there is a nuclear war that pokes holes in space-time, and then stuff falls through the holes. Old Earth tech is actually pretty scary. At least one alien invasion fleet got it's ass kicked by whatever combat satellites the nuclear apocalypse didn't destroy, and Juicers stand up to just about anything.

The great thing about Rifts is that the setting provides support for a LOT of power levels. If you want to play a Demi-God, a Dragon, the T-X with future-guns, a 30ft tall super-robot, Merlin, and Green Lantern, there are classes and powers and enemies to suit most of that. If you want to play a broke gambler, a hobo, a slight of hand magician, and an ordinary bounty hunter, you can do that too. Chemically altered unstoppable bio-warrior? Mechanically enhanced psychic madman? Divinely aided crusader of (Insert Pantheon Here)? Bizarre golem thing? Super samurai? Techno-ninja? Rifts can do all of that.

The problem comes in that it's not always obvious what class belongs in what power tier, and there are a lot of tiers to cross.
 
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